Henry Ate release first new single in 22 years with “You Were My First Everything”.

Listen to “You Were My First Everything” HERE
[Pictured: Karma from Henry Ate]
Photo Credit – Areo Rodriguez

Henry Ate, the iconic South African band consisting of original members Karma-Ann Swanepoel and Julian Sun, have just released their first single in 22 Years. “You Were My First Everything” is a poignant journey through nostalgia and reminiscence, capturing the essence of the band’s signature sound.

Back in the nineties, back when indie wasn’t a genre but a genuinely independent route to making and releasing music, Henry Ate soared onto the South African music scene with a set of songs and a live show that inspired a devotion that hasn’t dulled in the decades since.

It’s not hard to understand why.

To be in the audience at a Henry Ate show – whether in a sweaty club or in arenas when they supported heavy hitting internationals like Skunk Anansie and Garbage – was to be fully part of an expression of that fidelity. It was to be uplifted and immersed in something spiritual and beautiful because songs like “Just” and “Henry” off their 1996 debut “Slap in the Face” were transmissions from that magical place where pop hooks and lyrics that really say something come together in one unforgettable whole. It was also a thrilling and visceral experience. Because although Henry Ate mostly played in the classic rock formation (vocals, guitar, bass and drums) with some of the country’s best musicians, the heart of the band was Karma-Ann Swanepoel and Julian Sun.

It helped of course that Henry Ate had emerged in the wake of South Africa’s first democratic election, a time when possibility filled the air and original music was emerging at a sometimes stunning speed from all corners of the country. It was also a time when artists globally were building their own careers through the ignition of a desire to be part of an unfolding scene on the part of music lovers who came for that feeling of community and never left because the music was that good. In all respects it was a giddy and intoxicating, intoxicated era. In South Africa, Henry Ate achieved terrific heights and they did it independently: their first record was released by maverick Joburg label, Tic Tic Bang and, instead of taking the frequently trodden payola route to radio play, they found believers in the media who brought their music to a wider audience and so help move the band beyond the underground and onto the national stage.

All of which makes the release of a new Henry Ate song – the band’s first in 22 years – an occasion to give thanks for.

Releasing on March 28th, “You Were My First Everything” is everything you might imagine a new Henry Ate song to be: a striking opening verse describing a scene that’s effortlessly universal  (“You were my first everything/We don’t text and we don’t speak/I don’t recall if it was you or me/Probably both, but you know a part of me/No one knows…”) and an affecting, instantly memorable chorus, all wrapped in soaring pop hooks and layers of acoustic and electric guitaring that never intrude. Like all Henry Ate’s songs, these are words and this is music that fans take to their hearts. It’s nostalgia of the best kind: an evocation of a time and place and feelings carried by music that’s fresh and fertile.

“I’m really happy with the result,” says Karma of the new song. “I’ve probably listened to this song more than anyone. And I still go back to it. I like it a lot. Jules likes it, too. I hope it sparks joy in Henry Ate fans and delivers them the same gift of youthful reminiscence and nostalgia I enjoyed that Saturday morning while writing it. It was fun looking back. Good times. I feel super lucky to have had the 90s as the era of my youth and super lucky to have survived!”

Karma’s not alone in feeling that way: there was a wildness to Johannesburg in the 90s that could frequently verge on reckless abandon as the young and not so young moved between Bob’s Bar and 206 and raves in the Carlton Hotel or downtown Joburg, high on everything. And this gifted lyricist captures this in four perfect lines:

“You were my first everything

A million dreams I got to dream

I know my memories playing tricks on me

We were the wildest, most destructive thing”

Karma went on to make music as a solo artist after recording a handful of albums as Henry Ate and continues to do so out of her base in Joshua Tree National Park in California. But, when it first emerged, there was no question that “You Were My First Everything” was a Henry Ate song.

“I can’t say I have ever set out to write a Henry Ate song. When I started writing songs the moniker didn’t even exist. That said, over the years I have noticed a difference in the songs I choose to release as KARMA and those that feel more like Henry Ate. And that’s just it – it’s a feeling, a mindset, subject matter probably plays into it as well, and maybe the sound … there’s likely a bunch of factors – but for me it all adds up to a feeling.

“I knew ‘You Were My First Everything’ was going to be a Henry Ate song the moment the lyrics started falling out of me. It was a Saturday morning. June 11, 2022. I was feeling pretty excited about a dance party I was going to later. My friend and I were texting back and forth about our plans for the evening – figuring out how we were actually going to stay awake to make it to the party! I was super aware of the feeling of excitement. I recognised it. It reminded me of my life back at university when similar plans were being made.

“I took a moment to reminisce. The memories came flooding in. Something sparked and I wanted to put that feeling into a song. I don’t plan songs. I just pick up a guitar and see what happens. I do recall wanting to see if I could pull off putting the words ‘90s rave’ into the lyrics. ‘You Were My First Everything was finished by that afternoon. I called Jules and we spent over a year recording, mixing and mastering it. We looped Kevin (Leicher) in a few months later when it came to thinking about who should play guitars on the track. I loved the idea of having the original Henry Ate lineup – which was just the three of us – work on this song. Kevin did a fantastic job on guitars and mixed the song as well.”

Julian echoes Karma’s belief that “You Were My First Everything” was always going to be a Henry Ate song.

“It’s pure nostalgia, from Karma’s plaintiff lyrics about 90’s raves, to the acoustic guitar, to the electric guitar hooks, to the final mix itself, It could’ve come straight out of the Slap in the Face sessions. And when I first heard the rough mix, it was like being transported back in time to when Henry Ate first started and that provided pure inspiration for the vocal harmony. I’m so happy with how it’s turned out. It’s quintessentially Henry Ate and a gift to people who’ve been fans of the band since we first started. It allows for both them and us to reminisce about the good old days – “when we were beautiful”while getting to experience the first new Henry Ate song in years.”

For longtime fans and newcomers too, hearing Karma and Julian sing and play on a song that recalls first loves and times gone by is as joyful and affirming an experience as music can be. Listen to “You Were My First Everything” to feel this for yourself.

Listen to “You Were My First Everything”
[cover art for “You Were My First Everything”]

Follow Henry Ate online at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *